To mark our selection as a Finalist in the Art Fund Prize for Museum of the Year 2015 we’re embarking on a unique and ambitious tour of the country – the Dodo Roadshow.
Beginning at Land’s End on 8 June and concluding in John O’Groats one week later, the famous Oxford Dodo will visit more than 20 museums and galleries along the way. At each stop the Dodo will ‘interview’ one of the venue’s star objects.
Dove Cottage: William Wordsworth
So, tell me about yourself – who are you and where do you come from?
My name is William Wordsworth and I’m one of England’s most famous poets. I was born in the Lake District not far from here and this is my home in Grasmere, called Dove Cottage, where I lived with my sister, Dorothy, my wife, Mary, and our three children from 1799 to 1808. I once wrote that the garden at Dove Cottage was “the loveliest spot than man hath ever found”; I think you could say the same about the whole of the Grasmere valley.
What is it that makes you so special?
My poetry is considered revolutionary because I chose to write about the lives of ordinary people and the challenges facing society using beautiful words from everyday conversation. Previously, poets used overly formal and complicated language which was too fancy for the average man. In the stories in my poems, I wanted to show that “men who do not wear fine cloaths can feel deeply” and show that they care about the world around them.
Who looks after you in this place?
I am looked after by lots of people and I am regularly dusted! I live in the museum, and almost all my manuscripts and published books are also kept safe here in a special library. My house, Dove Cottage, is well-loved too. Every day the staff at The Wordsworth Trust show many visitors around my house and there you can see items of my furniture, including the couch which features in my poem ‘I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud’. Each year the staff also spend a month between January and February delicately cleaning, mending and conserving all the items in the cottage.
Do you remember life before the museum?
My house is almost exactly the same. It has the same dark stone floors and wooden panels, and the furniture is mine too. Dove Cottage used to be an inn called the Dove & Olive Bough before I moved here and it still has open coal fires lit through most of the year. The garden which I once described as a “little domestic slip of mountain” has plants like my sister Dorothy grew, including flowers and vegetables. Before the large houses opposite Dove Cottage were built, you were able to see the lake from the first floor of the cottage.
What does the future hold for you?
When I was a younger man, I toured Europe, including a visit to France just after the Revolution and before the war with Britain began; I was deeply affected by these conflicts. Issues like this and other themes that I have written about, such as the changes threatening society and the environment, and what it means to be alive in the world – are the same today as they were two hundred years ago. Through my writing I am able to provide a connection for people to the emotions they feel and to the natural world around them, encouraging a richer life. I hope that in the future more people learn about my life and read my works so that it brings them a closer understanding of these important things.